Black Knights look for first win on the road this season when they take on improved Roadrunners
It was much closer than many anticipated, but the Army West Point Black Knights beat The Citadel 14-9 last week to improve to 4-1. Army moved to 4-0 at home this season, with the only blemish being a 24-10 loss at Cincinnati on Sept. 26. However, the Black Knights will be on the road again this week, and facing tougher competition following back-to-back FCS opponents, to take on the UTSA Roadrunners.
UTSA also played a closer game than expected a week ago. Despite entering with a 3-1 record, the Roadrunners were 35-point underdogs against BYU. And even with starting quarterback Frank Harris unable to finish the game, UTSA played well in a 27-20 loss. The Roadrunners have lost two in a row, but an upset win over Army would be a major momentum boost at the midpoint of the season.
Army at UTSA
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 17, at 1:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Army -7
When Army West Point Has the Ball
Army quarterback Christian Anderson sat out against The Citadel because of a leg injury. Jemel Jones made his first career start and led the team with 49 rushing yards and a touchdown on a team-high 17 carries. Jones also completed 4-of-10 passes for 75 yards and connected with Reikan Donaldson for a 29-yard score, but he was intercepted twice as well. He also gave way to Maurice Bellan on the final drive, whose seven carries and 21 rushing yards helped run out the clock to secure the victory.
Like every triple-option offense, Army's runs through its quarterback. Anderson and Jones have nearly identical rushing stats this season, with Anderson having gained 239 yards and scoring three times on 55 carries and Jones gaining 237 rushing yards with three touchdowns on 41 attempts. Jones has been a more effective passer with 156 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions, while averaging 8.2 yards per attempt compared to Anderson's 122 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception, and 4.4-yard average. Therefore, while Army would prefer to have its starter fully healthy, if Jones (or Bellan) is called upon again against UTSA, the Black Knights should be in good hands.
Army managed just 153 rushing yards and averaged 3.1 yards per carry last week, far below the season average of 311.0 yards per contest, which ranks second nationally, and 5.55 yards per attempt, which ranks eighth. Leading rusher Tyrell Robinson gained only 11 of his 264 rushing yards against the Bulldogs (he also caught one pass for 11 yards), and Jakobi Buchanan led non-quarterbacks with 31 rushing yards on eight carries. Sandon McCoy, who leads the team with five touchdowns and ranks fifth with 148 yards on the ground, did not appear.
When UTSA Has the Ball
The Roadrunners have also been forced to play multiple quarterbacks this season — four, in fact. Frank Harris won a hotly contested competition during fall camp and has been a dual-threat dynamo in four starts. Harris has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 566 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, and has added 166 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 24 carries. However, Harris suffered a sprained knee in the 37-35 win over Middle Tennessee and missed the game against UAB. Josh Adkins stepped in to save the day against the Blue Raiders and started against the Blazers but suffered a broken collarbone early and will likely miss the rest of the season.
Harris returned to the lineup last week but didn't look 100 percent healthy and was eventually replaced by Lowell Narcisse, who thrived. Narcisse completed 17-of-20 pass attempts for 229 yards — an impressive 11.5 yards per pass — and two touchdowns. He also ran nine times for 13 yards and has 79 rushing yards on 22 carries this season. Harris should still be considered the starter, but both QBs could play — especially if Harris is still less than fully healthy.
There is no question for the Roadrunners at running back. Sincere McCormick is the nation's leader with 569 rushing yards on an FBS-high 100 attempts. McCormick ranks No. 11 in the country with an average of 113.8 rushing yards per game and has scored four times on the ground. He is one of four UTSA players with 10 or more receptions, having pitched in with 80 receiving yards out of the backfield. Joshua Cephus leads the Roadrunners with 26 receptions, 263 yards, and three touchdowns. Brennon Dingle (18 receptions, 251 yards, 1 touchdown) and Zakhari Franklin (15 receptions, 208 yards, 2 touchdowns) round out a solid group of wideouts.
Army's defense benefits statistically from its methodical pace on offense, but the Black Knights also have a knack for forcing turnovers. Only Syracuse (14) and UCF (12) have more takeaways than the Black Knights so far this season — a mark they interestingly share with UTSA. Marquel Broughton is responsible for two of Army's six interceptions, and he ranks second in tackles behind linebacker Jon Rhattigan, whose 36 total tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 43-yard interception return for a touchdown make him an early All-America candidate. Arik Smith has also been impressive with 30 tackles and 3.5 TFLs, plus the 2.0 sacks he notched last week.
UTSA freshman linebacker Jamal Ligon set a school record with 19 tackles against Middle Tennessee, and he ranks second on the team with 33 total stops behind defensive back Rashad Wisdom. However, Wisdom — whose two interceptions (including a pick-six) are tied for the team lead with Corey Mayfield Jr. — will miss the first half against Army after a targeting ejection last week. The Roadrunners have intercepted seven passes as a unit, which ranks No. 2 nationally.
Home-field advantage is a difficult thing to quantify in 2020 given the limits on fans in attendance across the country, but it's worth noting Army is 20-2 at Michie Stadium since the beginning of the 2017 season and just 5-10 in its opponents' home stadium during that same period. Of course, one of the wins was a 31-13 victory over UTSA at the Alamodome in 2019. We expect a closer contest this year, but for the Black Knights to find a way to win.
Prediction: Army 30, UTSA 21
(Top photo courtesy of @ArmyWP_Football)